With ESPN’s College GameDay headed to Ann Arbor for Notre Dame’s highly-anticipated visit to Michigan, the eyes of the football world turn their collective gaze upon the Big House. However, Irish coach Brian Kelly does not believe the game should be taken quite as seriously as most others have been viewing it.
In fact, Kelly recently even went so far as to publicly state that he does not consider Michigan to be a rival.
Obviously, Kelly’s UM counterpart, Brady Hoke, was not impressed – nor should he be.
“It is (a big deal) for us, yeah,” Hoke said. “Everybody looks at everything differently.”
Due to the Big Ten’s decision to switch to a nine-game conference slate and Notre Dame’s part-inclusion in the ACC (the Irish will play five games against ACC opponents each year), Saturday’s meeting will be the final one between these two teams (rivals?) for the foreseeable future. Seeing as they first played each other back in 1887, that’s too bad.
At least plenty of fans on either side are harnessing the opportunity to see these two historically dominant programs butt heads. Roughly 115,000 people are expected to be in attendance on Saturday night.
“‘GameDay’ has been here six times for this football game,” Hoke said. “That’s pretty significant, if they’re coming, whether it’s on this campus or in South Bend.
“So, it must have some sort of national appeal.”
When news first broke that Notre Dame would be pulling out of the Michigan game after this year, Hoke made waves by saying the Irish were “chickening out.”
He was asked about that quote after talking about the rivalry, and he stood by his words, about as succinctly as possible: “I said it.”
As far as his players are concerned, however, two of his brightest stars are simply excited to get back out onto the field.
“Some guys, it gets them fired up,” Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner said. “But I love football and I love to compete. So I’m going to be fired up regardless.
“It doesn’t take anyone saying anything bad about our team to get me fired up. I’m ready to play at all times.”
Expected to be a top five NFL Draft pick after the season, left tackle Taylor Lewan agreed.
“I’m playing football on Saturday,” Lewan said. “My coach can say what he wants. Coach Kelly can say what he wants. Devin Gardner can say what he wants.
“I’m playing ball. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Apparently, it doesn’t matter to Kelly, either.
What is going to be much more important is waking up on Sunday with a 2-0 record, instead of 1-1.
Since that first meeting in 1887, Michigan and Notre Dame have played a total of 40 times. The Wolverines hold a 23-16-1 edge in that time.